I was recently chatting with a friend who had booked onto a cookery workshop, and they were a little nervous - what to take, did they have enough experience, would everyone else be with friends... all the anxious thoughts that can revolve around doing something new. It made me think about what I could do to help people feel at ease when they come along to one of my classes. When you teach on a regular basis it can be easy to forget that people can be apprehensive before coming through the door. So I thought I would share some frequently asked questions from my open classes. They happen one Sunday (11 till 3) and one Tuesday (7 till 9.30) a month, at Brighton Sewing Centre on North Road.
What happens at the Open Class?
The session starts with a brief introduction where I talk about some quilts and samples, and find out what everyone wants to achieve. We then swiftly get down to work. There are usually one or two beginners, so I demonstrate basics such as rotary cutting and the role of the quarter inch seam allowance, then the rest of the time I support everyone as and when needed. We come together ten minutes before the end so everyone can share their work. The Tuesday evening and Sunday sessions run straight through, although once everyone is busy stitching I make tea. I advise bringing lunch along to the Sunday session, or arranging to head into the North Laine for a roast dinner when we finish at 3!
What can I make at the workshop?
If you are a beginner have a selection of patterns that you can follow. They are all to make small projects - as the time is limited I feel it is better to start and finish something, than go away with some cut and sewn pieces that end up sitting unfinished in a bag at the bottom of the wardrobe. It also means that you can have a go at cutting, sewing and quilting - the core skills that can then be used to go on to make other items. Often beginners who want to make a quilt come to three workshops as they can do patchwork at the first, quilting at the second and binding at the third.
Many quilters come along to use the sessions as time and space to get on with projects they have already started. I am on hand for advice, and they find they get much more done than they would at home. Recent projects worked on at the open class have included a strip quilt, tablemats, an appliqué baby quilt, a table runner, a wedding block quilt and finishing a quilt started in the 1970s.
I have been into the shop and I can't see how it fits in six students and sewing machines, how is it set up?
The class takes place in the downstairs workroom, however, the shop is closed during classes so the shop can be used as extra space for cutting or even sewing.
I am interested in coming along, but I am worried I will be surrounded by fantastic quilters/ I'll sew something wrong.
I have a gentle approach to quilting - I believe the most important thing is to enjoy it. My favourite quote if by Eleanor Roosevelt 'comparison is the thief of joy'. It is a relaxed class, enjoy what you are doing - there is no competition.
Do I need to bring anything with me?
The workroom is set up with sewing machines but you are welcome to bring your own if you prefer. You need fabric, however the shop is fully stocked, and Nicole and Melinda offer a 10% discount for materials bought at the class. If you already quilt it can be helpful if you can bring your own rotary cutter, and your preferred thread and a bobbin with you.
I have a couple of friends who want to come along - is this ok?
Absolutely, I have had friends, family and work colleagues come together, and a baby quilt made by a husband and wife for their baby.
I would like to do a structured class, do you do these?
I do, details of the latest classes are here. If there is something you would like to do then let us know.
I have never quilted before and have an idea. Can you help me with this?
We have up to six people at a session, so if you need lots of support I am limited to how much time I can spend with you. I suggest that if you want to do something such as design a specific quilt from scratch or learn a technique in-depth that you book a one-to-one. I have had students before who have started a quilt at a one-to-one session, and then attended the open classes to continue working on it with my support.
Anything else I need to know?
The shop is closed and the workroom is downstairs, so if it looks like no one is there wait by the door. I usually come upstairs about 5 to 10 minutes before the class starts. Many people come on public transport and if you are running late do not panic - no detentions here! If everyone on the list is not in I leave a note on the door with my mobile number so you can call and I can come up and let you in. There is limited space for layering a quilt, so unless it is a small quilt you need to do this at home. Also, if you are coming along and want to focus on a specific technique, for example machine quilting, it can help to send me a message before the class so I can bring along specific samples or handouts.
Finally, if you are a beginner, I feel I should warn you. Quilting is addictive!